A functional analysis of the age-related degeneration in the fischer 344 rat

David Diloreto, James R. Ison, G. Peter Bowen, Christopher Cox, Manuel Del Cerro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


We have previously described how the expression of photoreceptor cell degeneration in the Fischer 344 rat is affected by age, retinal topography, and gender. Degeneration in the central and equatorial regions progresses linearly with age throughout the life span of the animal, while the periphery of the male is subject to sudden and dramatic losses of cells in the superior hemisphere after 12 months and in the inferior hemisphere after 18 months of age. The purpose of the present study was to determine how this degeneration affected retinal function and visual ability in the male Fischer 344 from 3 to 24 months of age. Functional testing included the electroretinogram (ERG, measuring both a-wave and b-wave amplitudes and implicit times) and the behavioral method of startle reflex modification (RM, which measures the degree to which a light flash inhibits the response to an immediately subsequent loud noise). All of the functional measures showed a decline with age, but varied in their time course. ERG amplitudes showed a linear decline in amplitude over the entire age range. In contrast, the implicit times of the ERG waves and the degree to which the light flash inhibited the startle reaction both showed a slight maturation in function (faster implicit times and greater inhibition) from 8 or 12 months of age. After 18 months of age, the implicit time showed a significant increase and the startle response showed a significant decrease. This study shows how visual function correlates with the histopathological changes seen in age-related retinal degeneration. The temporal course of the changes in ERG implicit times and reflex inhibition may indicate the contribution of the retinal periphery to these measures. The study suggests the usefulness of multiple functional endpoints in the evaluation of retinal disease in animal models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-310
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Eye Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Behavior
  • Electroretinogram (ERG)
  • Photoreceptor cell
  • Rat
  • Retinal degeneration
  • Startle reflex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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